BOSTON — Martin Jarmond is learning to be comfortable in his new chair, although perhaps not literally. He’s just moved from one sofa in the corner of his office to another.
Jarmond, 37, became the youngest athletic director in the Power 5 in April. He officially started in June as the CEO of a program with 31 sports. That means he’s got decisions to make both large and small. On this day, he wasn’t sure what to wear to work: a golf shirt, or a suit and tie?
On BC’s recent staff retreat, he told people to dress casually, but he showed up in a suit. People worried about if they’d dressed right, and that’s not what he’d had in mind. That’s the impact you have when you sit in the No. 1 chair.
Jarmond was Deputy AD at Ohio State, as well as Chief Of Staff, learning from and working with Gene Smith, whom Jarmond says is the best AD in the country. Jarmond came close to two Power 5 AD jobs in the last two years, but was content in Columbus for a bit. Then at the 2017 Big Ten basketball tournament, he got a phone call.
BC is a unique outpost, squarely in the middle of perhaps the most tribal professional sports cultures in America.
Jarmond, a former college basketball player, is versed in the hottest Boston sports topic of the day.
“I like that Kyrie’s betting on himself,” Jarmond told SB Nation. “I mean, that’s a dude right there. I love when somebody bets on himself. That brotha can go, I mean we’ve seen that. So it’s like, [Boston] got the best player in the deal. I always like getting the best player in the deal.”
BC is a Jesuit Catholic school with an enrollment of just over 14,000, a far cry from the 66,000 at Ohio State. Jarmond is Southern Baptist. His wife, Jessica, was raised Catholic.
“I said, ‘Just so you know, I’m not Catholic,’” he recalled. “I’ve gone to Mass. My wife grew up that way, but we’re trying to figure it out for our daughter. That’s part of the appeal here. A lot of kids here are trying to figure it out. So I kinda fit into that because we’re trying to figure out just exactly how we want to raise her.”
When it comes to raising money, Jarmond is adept, and 2-year-old Scarlett played a part at Ohio State. Jessica picked the name because she liked it, but he didn’t exactly tell the scarlet-and-gray folks in Columbus that.
“I’d be like, ‘And my daughter’s Scarlett. I love it,’” he said. “And everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, go Bucks.’ But no, technically we just liked the name. But if you were from Ohio State asking me that, it would be a different answer.”
He won’t be able to use that line at BC, but he’ll be just fine on the donor circuit.
The school needs an infusion of passion. In the last two seasons, the Eagles’ football and men’s basketball teams have combined to win four games in ACC play.
Before getting to Ohio State in 2009, Jarmond spent seven years at Michigan State as Assistant AD for Development and Director of Regional Giving. Under his watch, the Spartan Fund set records each year. During a university-wide fundraising campaign which has now totaled nearly $1.5 billion, he helped raised $126 million for athletics. At Ohio State, he led a team that raised $120 million in three years.
“I enjoy it,” Jarmond said. “I love connecting with people. I’m very intrigued by people, and everybody’s different. I have this thing that I say in my mind, ‘Everybody has a story, and deep down they’re dying to tell it.’ And it’s on me to listen and connect, that story with what our vision, and what that passion and what that need, is.”
His age is one of the first things that gets brought up.
His skill at fundraising placed him on Sports Business Journal’s Forty under 40 list, right as he was taking the BC job.
The Eagles offered on a Monday, and he flew to California to accept the award on Tuesday. One pesky hotel fax machine and a wonky PDF system later, Jarmond was BC’s man by Thursday. A reception for the award included an announcement about his new gig.
He’d met with Smith to weigh pros and cons. In the end, BC’s new commitment to facility improvement swayed him.
“We both looked at each other, and it was a crazy moment, I’ll never forget it,” Jarmond said. “We both looked at each other and I said, ‘I think I gotta do this.’ And he said, ‘I think you do.’ And — I’m getting goosebumps — that’s that moment when I knew I was leaving the nest.”
Jarmond’s typical day starts around 5:30 a.m., because it has to.
He has two hours of me time, something he says he’s talked about with other ADs. He used to exercise five days a week.
“I have not [practiced], and I’m a big yoga person,” Jarmond said. “I did yoga twice a week when I was in Columbus. That’s the biggest challenge that I gotta correct quickly for my mind is to get back in the groove to where I do yoga at least once a week.”
There’s a studio he’s supposed to try. For now, to mellow out, he plays jazz in his office. And to stay energized, he drinks three cups of Oolong tea per day.
“You don’t have an idea of how many people are coming at you with demands of your time and mental energy,” Jarmond said. “That’s the first thing I didn’t have an appreciation for. Wow, I just went all day, and I didn’t even think about my email because I’m boom, boom.”
He runs through the day’s schedule:
- He had breakfast with both a prominent alum and a donor prospect.
- He met with the academic resource staff for the first time.
- He went through a feasibility study for a facilities project in the works, 90 minutes of it spent figuring out where the new building can go.
- By then it was noon, and time to grab lunch, right? Well, his associate AD needed to talk over the coming ACC Network. BC needs to build out some facilities for that too, and there’s a deadline.
- Another 10 minutes gone because of a student-athlete issue. There was just enough time for him to grab a 30-minute lunch.
- He sat with SB Nation shortly after 1 p.m. and hadn’t checked his email yet: “I can’t even reach everybody, and I pride myself in getting back with people on email. I got a pile of letters that people have written me since I got the job, and I still haven’t written back.”
- He’ll meet with the university’s CFO for the first time to understand how athletics fits into the school’s budget.
- Then a meeting with HR, for some org restructuring work.
- He’ll end his day with BC’s president, the Rev. William P. Leahy.
- If there are more meetings at the end of the day his calendar can stretch until 8 o’clock. And this is the calm part of the calendar. Men’s and women’s soccer along with volleyball and field hockey are the only teams in season.
“Scarlett’s all over me,” he said. “Cause she doesn’t know what you did today. She just knows she hasn’t seen you since last night when you went to bed. And yeah, you try to find that time where I can put my phone down. That’s usually only like an hour. I had to make a call last night about the ACC Network. It’s a 24/7 type of deal.”
Life is just different now, but that’s what happens when you’re no longer No. 2.
He’s not delegating well enough yet, and he knows it.
“I’m getting better at it. It’s trust,” he said. “You’re used to doing things yourself and — I read this earlier this week, it’s funny you asked me that — I read something that said that your primary job as a CEO of an organization is learning how to get things done through other people.”
He could give advice to Smith on a big decision, but then go home and play with his daughter.
It hit him right before his first press conference at BC, when he met with all the coaches.
“I remember a couple people walked in the room, and we exchanged some pleasantries and then everybody was quiet just looking at me,” Jarmond said. “That was my first moment when I was like, this is me. These are my coaches now.”
Often with a new AD, there’s a perceived mandate to clean house.
Jarmond will ask a coach realistically how they think the upcoming season will go. From there, he can set expectations. That’s different for every team.
Coming from Ohio State, Jarmond knows the importance of football. BC hasn’t won more than seven games or finished higher than third in its division since 2009. Coach Steve Addazio enters his fifth season with concerns about whether or not his offense will have a pulse. If it doesn’t, seven wins will be tough to get to.
Jarmond is giving Addazio as much of a blank slate as possible. He didn’t talk to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer about Addazio. Meyer and Addazio coached for years at Florida. Addazzio’s son, Louis, is a graduate assistant under Meyer. Jarmond didn’t want Meyer’s opinion to influence his own.
“Some of the support guys, I asked them, and they said, ‘Ahh Steve, he’s passionate,’” Jarmond said. “And he is, and I love his passion. Great passion. I’m a passionate guy, that’s one of the first things I talk about in my press conference.”
Just in case Jarmond forgets how big his job is, he walks past a plaque dedicated to William Flynn right next to his door.
Flynn was BC’s AD from 1957 to 1990, and his name hangs in the rafters at BC’s Conte Forum. Flynn is an “institution,” per Jarmond, who sees himself as a steward.
“I could never have the legacy that he had. He did so much and so early in this institution’s career and trajectory,” Jarmond said. “I can only hope that I can make a contribution and keep this thing going in the right direction and in an upward trajectory, and that’s my goal. But it’s humbling and it’s an honor to be associated with the same chair that he sat in. It’s cool.”